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Why Do I Have Bumps Around My Nipples

by Lyndon Langley
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Why Do I Have Bumps Around My Nipples

Why Do I Have Bumps Around My Nipples

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that this article contains a personal story from my own life. It doesn’t necessarily reflect what all women experience with breast cancer or other diseases, nor does it represent medical advice. Please consult your physician if you think something might be wrong with your breasts.
I was in my mid-30s when I learned about these bumps around my nipples. They were tiny red dots that looked like clusters of grapes growing out of my chest. The day after finding them, I took off my shirt at work and showed my co-worker what they were. She was curious but not alarmed. After all, she’d seen plenty of breast lumps herself.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized the significance of those little red spots. In fact, it was more than two years before I saw another doctor for anything related to my breasts. And even then, it was only after an embarrassing mammogram revealed that I had dense tissue surrounding part of one breast — a condition known as fibrocystic disease.
But don’t worry; I’m OK now. I’ve been cancer free since 2003, thanks to regular screenings and mammograms every six months.
The reason I waited so long to see a specialist? Well, besides being embarrassed by the whole thing, I also didn’t want to pay any money for something that probably wouldn’t affect me. That said, I would encourage anyone who thinks there may be something wrong with their breasts to get checked out.
My own experience has led me to believe that Montgomery’s tubercles (small bumps that grow around the nipples) aren’t really dangerous. But I still find it odd that no one ever mentioned them to me when I first noticed them. If someone had told me that I could come home with a new set of boobs because of those bumps, I would have taken him/her seriously.
The truth is, doctors do take these things seriously. There’s evidence suggesting that Montgomery’s tubercles can lead to cancerous changes called ductal ectasia. These bumps cause abnormal dilation of the milk ducts, making it difficult for fluids to drain properly into the nipple. Eventually, fluid buildup causes inflammation and pain. When left untreated, this process can progress to the point where the lump becomes infected.
This isn’t true for everyone, though. Some women with these bumps will never notice anything amiss. Others won’t realize they’re having problems until they visit a doctor and undergo testing. Still others won’t become concerned until they develop symptoms associated with breast cancer.
Here’s why we have Montgomery’s tubercles. First, let’s talk about how our bodies create milk. Breastfeeding mothers pump milk through a series of tubes that lead directly down to the nipples. At the same time, hormones trigger special cells in the lining of each milk tube to secrete milk proteins. This happens inside the lobules, which sit beneath the skin near the surface of the nipple. Milk droplets then collect under the skin and form into milk ducts.
Next, let’s talk about how these milk ducts eventually connect to the nipples themselves. As far as I know, nobody knows exactly what causes this to happen. However, some scientists speculate that it has to do with a gland called the apocrine sweat gland. This type of gland produces both sebum (oil), which lubricates the skin, and sweat. Researchers have observed similar structures in the armpits and anal region, and they’ve theorized that the apocrine sweat gland plays a role in connecting the skin to the nipple.
So here’s where the bumps come in. People typically have Montgomery’s tubercles on their areola, the area just below the nipple. These areolas vary in size according to the person. For instance, mine is pretty big compared to many other women’s. The size of the areola is determined by genetics, although certain factors such as age, sex steroids and hormone use can influence its appearance.
Now that we understand where these bumps originate, let’s move onto what makes them unique. You’ll sometimes hear people refer to them as “nipple buttons.” One theory suggests that these bumps developed to protect us from bacteria and viruses. Another says that they evolved to help regulate body temperature. Yet another states that they serve as a defense mechanism designed to keep foreign objects from entering the breast. Whatever the case, these are actually specialized tissues that perform very specific functions.
Just like most other parts of the human body, the areas around the breasts contain various types of glands. We know that people have hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, oil glands and lactiferous glands among others. What surprises many folks is that people also have Montgomery’s glands. Although these particular glands are located just underneath the nipples, they’re different from the rest of the glands found elsewhere on the body.
Montgomery’s glands produce a thick yellowish liquid that gets passed along to the nipples. This substance helps keep the nipples moist and flexible. In addition, it provides protection against infection. A number of studies suggest that the presence of these glands prevents bacterial growth on the nipples.
These areolas also play a key role in helping women hold their babies while feeding them. Specifically, the fat globules contained within the fatty layer of the areola separate and harden over time. Once hardened, the areola acts as a sort of nook or pocket that holds baby formula between mother and child. The baby can then suckle away without spilling any of the precious stuff.
Finally, let’s talk about the purpose of the areola itself. Most women have five areoles on each breast. Each one begins developing shortly after birth and continues to change throughout adulthood. Areolas shrink slightly over time, becoming smaller and smoother.
For more information on Montgomery’s tubercle, breast health and other topics, please see the links on the following page.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of breast cancer increases with age. Women over 70 years old are three times more likely than younger women to die from breast cancer.

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